This election cycle has thus far been quite interesting, hasn’t it? Thoughts as to how to approach the topic have been on my mind for months. As teachers, it’s our job to present an unbiased look at the candidates while focusing on the ins and outs of the election process. We aim to facilitate healthy discussion, when appropriate, and guide students in becoming responsible citizens capable of making their own informed decisions. I hope you find the resources in this post helpful in your own curriculum design as you navigate the exciting world of elections.
Scholastic Election 2016
This website is packed with resources for elementary and middle school students. A cool interactive feature is the Road to the White House. As students scroll along the page, they follow the steps that presidential candidates take as they attempt to win the election. There are small bios and fun facts in Meet the Candidates and even a selection of video clips that are each about 2 ½ minutes long.
I’m so thankful that iCivics exists. My students love it! The site includes short lessons on the Electoral Process, Candidate Evaluation and Voting. There are even NEW additions specifically to address the 2016 Election, like candidate bios, debate guides, and an election night tracker. One of my students’ favorite parts of the site is the games section! Two games specifically reinforce concepts related to the election process: Cast Your Vote and Win the White House. My students would happily play Win the White House every day if I let them. Ha!
2016 Presidential Election Candidate Quiz
There are several candidate match-up quizzes available online, but one of my favorites is the 2016 Presidential Election Candidate Quiz available through ProCon.org. As students select their choices, there is a pop-up box that shows them how the candidates align to their views. Students can learn more about certain issues by clicking on the “More” buttons located beside many of the questions. I recommend this quiz be shared with older students. I also always recommend that teachers preview the questions on the site to make sure that the topics are suitable for your school community.
I love interactive notebooks. They’re engaging and keep students interested in the content due to the hands-on nature of INBs. I designed one for students in 5th – 8th grade that covers voting rights, the voting process, types of elections, the Electoral College, the Presidential campaign process and campaign finance. Each time it’s used, student notes are organized and can be referred back to often during our lessons on the election cycle. The kids love to get out the scissors and glue sticks and customize their notes. If you’re interested in learning more, it’s available on Teachers Pay Teachers right now. There’s even a digital version for teachers using Google Drive in their classroom. J
The Living Room Candidate
Can’t get enough of those campaign commercials? While we might be tired of seeing candidates in our living rooms by the end of the season, the commercials offer a great learning experience for our students. The Living Room Candidate is a website that has archived commercials that date back to 1952 and recently began including ones from the current campaign cycle! I appreciate that there are so many options available for teaching students the process of evaluating presidential campaigns. If you don’t feel comfortable showing the ads from this year’s election, choose ones with similar messages or themes from past years to teach students the same concepts. The website also includes a selection of lessons geared towards teaching students about evaluating campaign ads.
Does Your Vote Count? By TedEd
I enjoy finding short, relevant video clips to incorporate into lessons. The Electoral College is a concept that many students find difficult to grasp at first. I was excited to find a 5 minute video hosted by TedEd that is not only informational but visually appropriate and engaging for students. There’s even a little quiz that you can use to check student understanding during your lesson on the Electoral College.
Classroom Debate Toolkit by PBS
Classroom debates are memorable and rewarding experiences. They encourage students to research and synthesize information while the teacher facilitates a safe atmosphere to debate topics with fact-based evidence and supporting arguments. Middle School and High School is the perfect time to introduce debates to your students. If you’ve never conducted a debate in your classroom, check out the Classroom Debate Toolkit by PBS. Once on the site you can select a PDF document. It's a step-by-step guide to creating and hosting a debate in your classroom. It’s a student-driven experience facilitated by the teacher and challenges students to create logical arguments to support their point of view. The PDF even has a list of ideas for your classroom. While many of the ideas are geared towards older students, there were several debate topics that would be appropriate in a secondary classroom.
What resources do you use to teach about the Presidential election? I'd love to hear about them so share in the comments!
~ The Teacher's Prep